Venice Artisans: A Taste of Venice Blog tour was characterized by the large support of local businesses and artisans, who fully understood our mission to present the real Venice to the world, to try to help the rebirth of this beautiful city exposing to everyone the Venetian people and their centuries old crafts.
Piero Dri of Il Forcolaio Matto was the first one I contacted and who immediately gave us his support, his time, his passion and his knowledge to this project!
I met Piero a few years ago when we both got involved in the filming of Secret Italy with Alex Polizzi. Piero took the British presenter on his boat along the narrow and hidden canals of Venice, to show her the side of the city which usually all tourists miss.
Alex Polizzi and Piero Dri in the filming of Secret Italy by Daily Mail
After the filming we got talking and we immediately realized we were on the same wave of length when talking about Venice, the future of the city and how people like us could help change the way tourists see our city.
Piero had just opened his shop crafting and selling oars and oarlocks and it is a real pleasure for me seeing that his gamble paid off and he is becoming more and more well-known both locally and internationally and he is slowly but surely reaching his goals.
He is a man full of passion for this ancient craft but at the same time he is young enough to be opened to the changes which this modern world has brought. He has managed to combine old and new in a unique way and I truly respect him for this!
A taste of Venice meets Il Forcolaio Matto
I just wish the people who run the city could learn from the way he, and many other local young artisans like him, operate and manage to use their skills and the city, without abusing and destroying Venice.
But let’s Piero Dri tell you all about himself!
Introduce yourself to our readers: who is your company and what does it do?
My name is Piero Dri, and Il Forcolaio Matto (The crazy Oarlock maker) is the name of my company.
Next to the construction of the oars there is also the realization of the so called Forcole, the typical Venetian oarlocks. The Forcola is an object that exists only in Venice; it is a particular wooden row lock on which the oar of the rower rests.
Forcola by Piero Dri
The Voga alla Veneta is a unique standing rowing technique, where the oar must be free to move from the oarlock at every opportunity.
Venice is in fact made up of narrow canals, it has a very particular geography and steering a boat is not always so easy, especially if it’s windy or if the tide is high. The gondolier must be able to manoeuvre his gondola in the most efficient and rapid possible way and this can be done only through the Forcola.
I carve the Forcola from a single piece of walnut wood, carefully and naturally seasoned in my own workshop. I follow the traditional processing technique, all by hand and each piece is unique, tailored to the client, which is more often than not a gondolier.
Carving a Forcola by Piero Dri
Each Gondolier has therefore his own oar and his own oarlock.
The particular shape of the forcola makes possible the positioning of the oar in 7 different push or support points, so to always have a perfect control of the boat.
The sculptural lines and the special surfaces of the Forcola do bring out the beautiful grain of the wood and make it an object of great beauty, especially appreciated as a piece of furniture.
How long have you been operating in Venice?
I was born in Venice in 1983. I have always lived here. I opened my own business, The Forcolaio Matto, in early 2013, after a 7 year long period of apprenticeship in the workshop of my master teacher, Paolo Brandolisio.
What do you love the most about Venice?
I decided to embark on this career path in my city because I love Venice and I consider it a wonderful place to live.
I love the tranquillity of Venice, I love its colours, its silences. I love the water noise, the shouting of the people talking to each other on the street.
Bloggers meeting Piero Dri
I love the size, large enough to be able to have different zones, which are all individual for history and conformation, but small enough to be crossed on foot in no more than an hour. I love the Lagoon of Venice, its rhythms, the sunrises and the sunsets which it offers every day.
I love Venice, its proximity to the sea and at the same time also to the Dolomites, which in the most clear days, stand out on the horizon of water. I love the Venetian social dimension, the streets and the campi are always a meeting place for people and the exchange of greetings. I think it is unique for all this, in addition to the artistic, architectural, cultural site of which Venice is so rife.
What would you change in Venice?
I would not change a thing in Venice, but I would change the way of living it. Here tranquillity, peace of life, serenity should reign.
We live in a busy world, where everything has to be fast, quick, efficient. Living in Venice should mean adapting to its urban structure, that of a city of water, a unique city. Instead people want to try to fit the new needs of modern man, which I think ends up being more technological, but also more stressed and less happy than he could have been 50 years ago. It is no coincidence that in recent years many young people in Italy not only choose to return to work the land, but also to return to simple jobs.
Oarlock by Piero Dri
For many years we thought we could do without menial jobs, making us blinded by the illusion of a comfortable life in all respects. I, in a sense, feel part of this new generation of “rebels” in the sense of youth in contrast. Opening my business I decided to return to the past, to keep it alive, to keep the tradition. That’s why I called it “Il Forcolaio Matto”, because sometimes you feel like a fish out of water.
But I firmly believe, and I am not the only one, Venice could be a gem, an exemplary city, where you can build a model life, a happy life, on a human scale. It could be a city where technology goes hand in hand with respect for the land, very fragile in this case, where you can enjoy human relationships in these little alleyways. It would take a lot of intelligence and foresight.
Alas, these are rare qualities and today everything is more confined to easy speculation, the vile exploitation of the territory, the worship of Tourism, easy for immediate gain, without realizing that there is no longer a social fabric living through the historic buildings , that the invasion of tourists is sweeping away the residents. For now the majority choose to destroy Venice.
Forcola e remo by Piero Dri
But not myself and others like me! A Taste of Venice is one of us!
For information contact:
Il Forcolaio Matto
Il Forcolaio Matto
Ramo dell’oca Cannaregio 4231 30121 Venezia – Italy